Saturday, November 22, 2008

Look what I found.....The Guesthouse Set! (and ME!)

Who would think I'd ever put this photo of me on the internet?  Well, I sure won't be mistaken for Tom Selleck!  One day the Art Director, Archie Bacon, and I were walking by the unprotected, uncovered Ferrari and I just happened to have my camera.  Like a couple of naughty kids, we took turns taking pictures of each other sitting in the car.  Yeah, I'm SO cool that I didn't even know how to open the door from the outside or the inside so I had to climb in and out!  This was the "driving " Ferrari.  They also had a "tow" Ferrari which they used behind a camera truck for when you saw Tom inside the car "driving"--which he wasn't.  Again, cutting back and forth between actual driving shots and sitting behind the wheel shots, it looks pretty good.  That's the soundstage behind me on the left.

On to the guesthouse photo--it turns out I did have one in my portfolio.  That means that when Indiana Jones comes over and we go on a quest in my attic to find the long buried photos, there could be more (?).  I know you all have seen this set more recently and more often than I have so pardon my first impression on seeing it for the first time in decades--what a dump!  It's much smaller than I remember and almost looks dirty with those walls.  Ok, please, no hate mail and death threats--it's just my first thougts after all these years.  You can see the make-up tables being stored inside the set since space was always a premium on that stage.  George Sumner was a personal friend of John Hillerman so that painting had to hang prominently over the fireplace.  It would not have been my choice since it photographed so dark on camera.  Basically the furniture was pretty much run of the mill sort of middle class Sears contemporary items.  I had forgotten there actually were windows on the camera left side of the set and the smaller one on the landing.  Normally a set would be lit for filming and then the lights taken down and used elsewhere.  As you can see, the basic lights were left up on the catwalk all the time because this was a permanent set.  The guesthouse set was fairly close to the side wall of the soundstage--the back wall maybe 6-8 feet away which made it difficult to have a higher ceiling since the roof sloped down at that point.  You can see the small ceiling sections over the entry door.

There was a door to the right of the TV set that really did lead into Tom's bedroom set.  There was also a small wall portion that could be used as part of the "4th wall" but was seldom seen.  I think that is my leadman Russ Maki standing on the set.  

Many have asked what happened to all the items.  I am amazed at how many of those items did survive the "great purge" when they tore down the old set dressing building a few years ago.  It's funny how when things are taken away from their original environment, they just become "stuff."  Like after my parents had died and we sold the family home, I brought things back to Hawaii that had been in that house for decades.  Somehow without the wall paper and windows and familiar surroundings, the things just weren't the same.  What few items that may or may not still exist in the new storage area,  are the property of the State of Hawaii Film Office and would not be for sale--so don't ask!   I'll be the one getting in trouble for even mentioning it!

I found a few other surprises--even a "funny" Christmas story (and photos) about an explosion we did that accidentally  blew out the windows out of a house and sent their Christmas tree flying across their living room.  Have to wait for Christmas for that one!  Again, thanks for all your encouragement and comments.  (don't stop now!)


Mike (N1095A) said...

Wow, you're right, the set does look dirty especially the carpet on the stairs. You can also really see the seams where the walls are put together. I'm suprised to see just how narrow the set is left to right in the photo. It does look wider on the screen. It looks like the set was at least partly stripped of props when it wasn't being shot (notice the empty hat rack). I imagine props were guarded closely as they could easily "walk away" to a new life as a souvenir. Seeing the ceiling panels and other higher camera positions is interesting. It shows where certain angles were shot from. This is a great shot. As for the Ferrari shot, how lucky are you?! and it's my favorite of all them, the '84.

Mike (N1095A) said...

My mistake, I guess the hats are the only thing missing. It looks like all the props are there. I guess the hats are wardrobe, and not props.

Anonymous said...


I have now died and gone to that GREAT GUESTHOUSE in the sky.

Thank you so much for finding this photo,you're right, it looks small.
But ohhh sooo familiar. Weird to see other furniture on that set, ie: table with backgammon set, make-up stations & director's chair

You are so kind to take up your time to post these items online, and your memories of the time are most special.

The picture of you in the Ferrari is too cool. You look good with a mustache and shades...too cute!

We enjoy all of your posts.

Sir Richard Romer,

Thank you again!

Anonymous said...'re going to make us wait for the funny explosion Christmas story???? Not fair!! Tell us now! Don't make us wait!!!lol

Marco said...

Too awesome! I just love the Ferrari picture! Weren't the 80s just great? We can only imagine how much fun posing in the car really was.

Thanks again so much for posting this!

Darlene said...

Thanks for sharing these pictures - you look great in the Ferrari. I Googled George Sumner and found a website of his - under the list of clients who are celebrities there is John Hillerman and Tom Selleck.

Keep finding pictures and memories - I'm enjoying them.

SelleckLover said...

To quote Higgins...OH MY GAWD! This is the Holy Magnum Grail I've been waiting for!! These pictures are so beyond cool, that a word hasn't been invented to describe them, IMHO!! Love the picture of you in the Ferrari...I'm so jealous!!!! (LOL) Wow....just WOW! =)

Magnum Decorator said...

We didn't actually lose too much to theft. A story I was told about Buck Henshaw once that seemed like him: Someone stole a pair of lamps but left the shades behind. He put the shades out with a sign saying that these belonged with them--and they left as well. These were the days before security cameras and i.d. badges. Hats on the set that were not worn would have been set dressing. Anything of a personal nature or articles of clothing that were left around a room that might have "said" something about one of the main characters, I would always have a producer look at first.

Wow, I guess I should just go jump off the Pali or something--I'll never be able to top all the comments I received for this last post! (Don't stop, however!)

Aloha, Rick

Dave from Perth said...

Wow Rick! I've been off line for a week and have missed some posts but am very happy to see these pics! The guesthouse set photo really does shed some light on how it all worked - I have often wondered what it all looked like... this is just awesome! As others said, the set seems so much narrower than it appears on the show.

The Ferrari pic is nice - very impressive mo!


Anonymous said...

This is a great blog! I always love
inside stories on shows and movies.
Magnum PI came on at the same time
that I went on my own and my first apartment was designed like the guest house; the bottom half of an a-frame with the den/kitchen together with a stairway going up
the side. Were you ever asked by
a home builder for the plans to
build a real life version?

James J. Walters said...

Ah, the guesthouse set! Very cool! Boy, it sure does look smaller than one would expect. Thank you so much for posting this Rick! :)

Anonymous said...


Thank you so much for posting this blog. Wonderful!

I check everyday and am so excited to see what new insight and photos you share.

Thanks for taking the time to do this.


Judy said...

I've been away from your blog for a few days as well! WOW!! I am so thrilled that you found this and am keeping my fingers crossed you find a few more. I love seeing the close up details of the actual construction, lighting etc. It sure does look small, and so narrow. It just goes to show how powerful and forgiving the camera is and how you can make something not so great look great!! No offense, just wasn't sure quite how to word that! I'm also hoping your memory on the REAL guesthouse comes back or (and this is pushing it) some photos of it materialize! :)
It was fun seeing you posing in the car. You must have felt like a naughty school kid getting away with something.
And lastly, a prop question and I'm sorry it is so vague but here goes.
In a few episodes there was something hanging on the post of the steps leading up into the kitchen that almost looked like a purse, that has me stumped. It had a long strap, was tan and semicircular in shape with a dark round object that could have been a button for a loop to hold a flap in place. Any ideas?
Thanks again for the great memories and info.

Kimbosan said...

Thanks for the great pics of the set, I am now beginning to put together how it was shot, do you have any location shots at Eve's place showing outside crew shots, lighting or even better do you have any "B" roll of the shoot?
As for preservation of Eves place why doesn’t someone buy it and restore the estate to its original form, it’s a great place by all accounts, what do you recon its worth today, in Perth Australia as well as many other countries we have heritage listed sites that cannot be demolished due to the heritage value, I’m not saying that Magnum PI would count as heritage however the original history of the place is quite significant.

Magnum Decorator said...

Wow, any more comments like these and I may have to see if I can walk on water! Yes, it is ultimately always what the camera sees with the help of special lenses and good lighting, a big guy with a mustache and suddenly the set looks great! I will do my best in the near future to attempt to locate other set photos even if Indiana Jones is not available. At least we don't have any snakes in Hawaii for him to worry about and certainly not in my attic.

As I've said before, I may not have taken or kept other photos of the permanent sets because I didn't design or furnish them (with the exception of the living room set). Also, because we never filmed inside the Anderson Estate, I probably don't have any photos of that either. Eve was always a very private person. From what I understand, she has become even more so. It's been about 18 years since I've been inside those gates. I think we filmed a "Jake and the Fatman" there once. I have heard that she is somewhat (if not deeply) resentful of the continued Magnum connection to her house--Holy Land, Ground Zero or Big Kahuna as it may be to Magnum fans around the world. In other words, I would not contact her in connection with Magnum and expect an invitation to come over with my camera in this or my next 3 lifetimes.

Thanks again!


Anonymous said...


I love this blog! I'm a big Magnum fan, and to get so much 'inside scoop' on the production is facinating.

I stumbled across your blog while searching for information about the Gauguin painting in the Guest House Kitchen. I eventually found the information at "Magnum Mania" (

Thanks for doing this.

strick said...

I love what you're doing here. Thank you for showing us a deeper side to a show that must live on. Question: I purchased a wooden tiki spoon & fork that was from a prop sale. It's certificate says it came from the show. Just curious if this was used as i did not see it in the picture. I'd think the market on fakes for this is pretty small, lol. Thanks again for a great site.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for posting pictures and your memories of Magnum PI. I grew up watching this show, and had dreams of driving a Ferrari and having adventures in Hawaii. How much fun you must have had living the dream. I would have worked for free just to experience it all!

Merry Christmas and may God bless you and your family.

Stian said...

Your blog is great! Thanks sharing with us these rare pictures! But do you know what happened to the rubber chicken?:O

mikebythesun said...

This website is very, very cool. Fan sites are great, and even "official" websites can be a lot of fun, but this is truly unique. The inside view you provide, both visually and literally, make for a wonderful narrative that true fans of this show can truly appreciate.

There is so much good stuff on this website, but this section in particular is much appreciated. The scenes in the "guest house" were always my favorite, as the not only showed our esteemed playboy at his most casual but were the stage for some great showdowns between Magnum and Higgins. Its great to see what it really looked like!

Many thanks for doing this website - please continue to do so!

Anonymous said...

new here just stopping by wanting to say something/brag at how unbelievably lucky i was! a new thrift store just opened down the street and lo and behold for a heart stopping only $24.99 was that EXACT COUCH!!!!!! I SWEAR TO YOU THE EXACT COUCH!!!!!!! with all 4 orange floral printed pillows!!! SO UNBELIEVABLE I HAD TO BUY IT CANT WAIT TO CLEAN IT UP AND START MY OWN MAGNUM DECOR!!!

Brian said...

I just wanted to say that I just came across your blog and I'm really enjoying it. Magnum P.I. has always been one of my favorite shows along with The Rockford Files. I'm also enjoying a blog on The Rockford Files as well. I have always wondered how close a made for TV Magnum came to taking place after the show went off the air? I've heard there were talks but never heard anymore information about it being done. What project are you working on now? Hope your doing well. Great blog.

Magnum Decorator said...

Hi Brian,

Thanks for your comment and interest. Funny, this post is from 2008 and someone is still commenting on it! Slightly faster if you just email me as I hardly ever check this blog anymore. I have no insider knowledge of what has been or was considered planned for any "Magnum" revival. I did read once when there were rumors circulating about one that Tom Selleck had said he had not been contacted at all. If it ever happened, I would assume they would do most of it in L.A. or Vancouver and then just come here for some exteriors. Just finished working on an Oliver Stone movie about Edward Snowden and also just got into The Art Directors Guild in Hollywood. Hope all is well with you, Rick

Alli said...

These pictures are great - I love the show - so cool to see behind the scenes!